How to pick the best agency for your new website

You’ve received multiple quotes for your new website and one comes in at $60k and the other at $400k. Chances are the discrepancy in cost is due to the vagueness of what you asked for. To avoid picking the wrong agency, and getting a new website that does nothing for your business, follow the approach we use to really nail down what you’re asking for.

Pick the best agency for your website

We were recently talking with a group in desperate need of a new website. Their current site was … embarrassingly old, clunky, failed on a mobile device, and was built around 2005.

In the search for a new vendor to partner with, they had estimates anywhere from $60,000 to $400,000 in terms of the build. How would they know who to go with? Is the cheapest bid a steal, or is it doomed for failure from the start? What in the world could they get for almost half a million dollars? Facing this uncertainty, they were looking for a way to make an educated, confident decision.

You can probably relate, as agency, consulting fees, and solutions can be all over the map. Trusting an unproven partner is a gamble, so it’s important to have a solid grasp on your overall vision and strategy prior to getting bids on work.

We feel your strategy should drive your solution, not the other way around.

To help you, I wanted to share how we typically partner with brands in this position. This group had gotten stuck by being quick to ask for a “new website” without taking the time to define exactly what they want for their “new website.” We work through a discovery phase to better define WHAT needs to be built so capabilities and expectations are much more clear, making the process super easy for all parties involved.

The approach

Three phases of web development

You need to take the time to document your business objectives, the needs of your Customers or Patients, and how your new website can support your business objectives. This is really owning what you’re asking of your potential partner.

A new website build is typically broken down into three phases:

1. Discovery

  • Stakeholder interviews, personas, and detailed requirements allow time and thought to be put towards a recommended solution
  • Priorities for functionality are made, so an initial solution can be launched to meet immediate needs, then scaled (think Phase 1 and Phase 2, which helps you if your budget is tight)
  • Detailed requirements, which allow for accurate build estimates from multiple agencies, so you’re comparing apples to apples, making it much easier to discern the right partner for you

2. Conceive

  • A solution is identified through wireframes, sketches, prototypes, visual design
  • Requirements and priorities are finalized

3. Build

  • The solution is built and deployed
  • Repeated until all phases are complete

This is then rinsed and repeated, following an iterative lifecycle.

Questions to work through

The questions below are all relevant to the “Discovery” phase above. You are discovering what you need to build by asking yourself, your team, and your organization the right questions. It allows you to then go and ask your potential agency vendors to give you quotes on the right things.

Goals

  • What are your business goals for the new website?
  • Are you a subset of a larger company? How do you see your entity benefiting the parent company in the short term, mid-term, and long-term? Are there any expectations of shared data between your entity and your parent company?
  • How can the website support your business goals? What would the website(s) goals be? How do we measure success with the spend of the new website?
  • Are there other related initiatives or projects?
  • Do you have examples of competitive experiences that demonstrate what you are striving for?
  • What is the minimum functionality/content you need to support your goals? It can help you better phase the new site approach

Technology

  • Do you have access to your current code base?
  • Is your existing site content stored in a database?
  • What are the other data systems you need to tie into? What do you need them to do?
  • Who will support the websites post-launch? Do you need hosting? Do you need a business-user to be able to manage your website?
  • Do you have a portal or login of any kind? What does this need to do? How do you need to manage who has access and who doesn’t?

Audience

  • Who will be your primary audiences and what will their goals and tasks be? What are they looking for? (These are commonly referred to as personas)
  • Does your website need to support a content strategy for your personas? (In healthcare this could be social media patient outreach, helpful articles, patient profiles, physician interviews, etc.)
  • How will each audience access each site?
  • Will there be a different experience for authenticated/unauthenticated users?
  • Will there be personalization? If not now, do you want it in the future?
  • Do you have existing research about your audiences?

Analytics

  • Is analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) currently set up the site?
  • How would the business goals (identified above) be tracked via analytics (e.g. a monthly dashboard for marketing)?

Brand

  • Do you have an existing style guide?
  • Do you want to create new branding?
  • Would you need image assets created?

Content

  • Are you creating any new content?
  • Are you planning on migrating your own content?
  • Is there any shared content between your website and your parent company? If so, how will this be managed?
  • Would you need to hire someone for content development?
  • Are you planning on augmenting existing content with new content?

There is a good chance the $60k quote was a basic “brochure” website with little to no database connectivity. Or, it might have included no customization, but a shared platform with a shared look and feel.

There is a good chance the $400k quote was a complete guess because there was little guidance besides, “We need a new website.” And if many of the questions above point to a more complex site with complex content and complex user management, this amount could easily go up.

Taking the time to work through these kinds of questions is at the heart of what we do here at Branch Strategy. We feel your strategy should drive your solution, not the other way around. Own your goals, own your vision, and then evaluate the partner that best fits your needs. You’d be surprised how it gives you much more confidence as a leader, how it unifies your project teams, allows you to better track ROI, and makes you much better at your job.

Jackie Martin

Jackie is the founder of Branch Strategy. With over 15 years of experience with all stages of web and software design and development, she works with her clients to identify, plan, and implement data-driven digital marketing solutions. Her passion is to help leaders who don't know what to do and don't know where to start.

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